Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 4 - What Is the Foundation of the Church and Its Truth?

This post is a continuation of the last post in this series. This series of posts is a refutation of some points made in an article, "Just What is an APOSTLE?", published by Church of God in Wales (COGIW). In the first post is a link to their website.

This series of posts explores the role of Herbert W. Armstrong, and the issue of correcting his doctrines according to the Bible.

The COGIW article tries to show that Mr. Armstrong was an apostle and his teachings should not be changed or questioned. Mr. Armstrong may have been an apostle, and I think he was, but that does not mean we should believe his teachings more than the Bible and fail to correct errors when we find them.

The COGIW article, in chapter 3, says that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the foundation of the Church, and the other apostles are the rest of the foundation to be aligned with the cornerstone, Jesus Christ. Then the rest of the Church is to be built on the foundation of the apostles and Christ and are to be aligned with that foundation.

The foundation, in this analogy as I understand it, is the doctrinal foundation of the Church.

To support this, the article quotes Ephesians 2:20: "...having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone...".

So we have a foundation for the Church made up of the apostles and prophets, Christ being the cornerstone of that foundation. The foundation of a building is used as an analogy to represent the doctrinal foundation of the Church.

But there is another analogy used in the Bible concerning the foundation. Paul wrote, "For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:9-11).

In this analogy, Paul does not count himself as part of the foundation, but rather a workman, and the foundation is Christ. In this analogy, Christ is not the cornerstone, but the whole foundation, all of it.

These two analogies complement each other if you look at the foundation as being the Bible. In the first analogy, the foundation is described as the apostles and prophets, because the apostles and prophets (not just apostles) wrote the Bible under God's inspiration. And because the Bible is the word of God, it is also described as Christ. The Bible is called the word of God, and Christ is also called the Word of God - that is one of His names (John 1:1, 14, Revelation 19:13).

Mr. Armstrong understood the equivalency between Christ and the Bible, both being the word of God. He said that Christ was the word of God in person and the Bible is the word of God in print.

There was a sign at Ambassador College that said, "THE WORD OF GOD IS THE FOUNDATION OF KNOWLEDGE". I don't think Mr. Armstrong had his own word in mind when he had that sign made. He was referring to the Bible.

Mr. Armstrong knew that the foundation is the Bible. He considered the Bible to be the foundation of knowledge, not himself or his own teaching. Paul said that in building God's spiritual temple, the Church, he could lay no other foundation but Christ. Both the Bible and Christ are called "the Word of God". Mr. Armstrong taught that the Bible is the word of God in print and Christ is the Word of God in person, the same word.

In Ephesians 2:20, that foundation is described as the foundation of the apostles and prophets because the Bible is composed of their writings, which God inspired as His word.

The real foundation for the truth of God and the doctrines of the Church of God today is the Bible, the only infallibly correct word of God.

The Bible is God speaking.

It is the foundation of the Bible that Mr. Armstrong's teachings must be aligned with. And because Mr. Armstrong was human and made mistakes, his teachings have not always aligned perfectly with the Bible. God allowed Mr. Armstrong to make mistakes, some serious mistakes.

Some have reported that Mr. Armstrong said, God has allowed me to make hundreds of mistakes, but never a mistake that would hurt God's work.

But can you say that about his statement to follow the next pastor general (Mr. Tkach) if we want to be in God's kingdom? He didn't qualify that with, as he follows the Bible, or as he follows Christ. It was phrased unconditionally. And it was wrong, as events that followed proved.

This was not only a mistake and a serious mistake, but it was a mistake that may have seriously hurt God's Church. How? Brethren who might have otherwise checked up more carefully in the Bible on the changes Mr. Tkach introduced instead may have just followed Mr. Tkach, assuming God must be leading him, just as Mr. Armstrong said. Mr. Armstrong's statement was horrible advice that may have spiritually harmed those who followed that advice.

Now, you can say, God allowed it for a purpose. God could have kept Mr. Armstrong from saying what he said, but God allowed it for the purpose of testing the Church and separating those who serve God from those who don't.

And that is true.

But in that case, those who passed the test are those who did not do what Mr. Armstrong said.

And perhaps a reason God allowed Mr. Armstrong to say this was to prove, once and for all to the whole Church of God, that we should NOT follow Mr. Armstrong's teachings more than the Bible, and we should NOT follow his mistakes, but rather correct those mistakes when we find them.

Mr. Armstrong's teachings are not the foundation of the Church of God and its truth and doctrines, or any part of that foundation. Mr. Armstrong's teachings rather point us to the true foundation, the Bible.

And as I write this it occurs to me that there is a comparison here with John the Baptist. We know that John was an Elijah to come to prepare the way for Christ's first coming. Assume that Mr. Armstrong was the Elijah to come to prepare the way for Christ's second coming and to restore all things. I think that is true. Now notice a comparison.

John did not point people to himself, but to Christ, the Word of God in person. "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry" (Matthew 3:11).

"Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?' " (Matthew 3:13-14).

"Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, 'Who are you?' He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, 'I am not the Christ' " (John 1:19-20).

"And they asked him, saying, 'Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?' John answered them, saying, 'I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose' " (John 1:25-27).

"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, 'Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!' " (John 1:29).

"And they came to John and said to him, 'Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!' John answered and said, 'A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, "I am not the Christ," but, "I have been sent before Him." He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease' " (John 3:26-30).

In every way, John pointed to Christ, not himself. Christ was the Word of God in person, and John pointed people to Him.

In like manner, Mr. Armstrong pointed people to the Bible, the word of God in print, more than any minister. He told his radio audience, don't believe me, believe your Bible.

As John the Baptist pointed people to the Word of God in person, so Mr. Armstrong pointed people to the word of God in print, the same word.

It is the Bible, and Christ, that is the foundation of the truth, the Church, and its doctrines, not Mr. Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong is not any part of that foundation, but rather Mr. Armstrong pointed us to the true foundation, Christ and the Bible.

Mr. Armstrong did not get his knowledge and truth from direct revelation as the apostles and prophets in the Bible did. He got his knowledge from the Bible. God directly revealed knowledge to Paul, who wrote his epistles, and Mr. Armstrong then got it from Paul's epistles. God directly revealed knowledge to Peter, and Peter wrote his epistles, and Mr. Armstrong then learned from Peter through Peter's epistles. Likewise, God revealed knowledge to James and John and Mr. Armstrong learned from their writings.

God revealed foundational knowledge to Moses, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and many others, and Mr. Armstrong received knowledge from their writings.

Mr. Armstrong did not lay the spiritual foundation for the Church. That foundation was already laid - it is the Bible. What Mr. Armstrong did was to point people to that foundation and help them understand it.

He restored knowledge, yes. But he did it by believing the Bible and teaching what he found there. The knowledge was in the Bible, but it had been lost through Satan's deceptions and misunderstandings. Mr. Armstrong believed the Bible more than his own opinions, and God helped him to understand the Bible and helped others understand it also.


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